Crude gains on upbeat U.S. consumer sentiment, wholesale price data

Oil prices rose on Friday after U.S. consumer sentiment and wholesale pricing data beat expectations and fueled expectations for a more robust U.S. recovery down the road.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for delivery in May traded at $104.10 a barrel during U.S. trading, up 0.68%. New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of $103.02 a barrel and a high of $104.42 a barrel.

The May contract settled down 0.19% at $103.40 a barrel on Thursday.

Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at $99.95 a barrel, Monday's low, and resistance at $105.22 a barrel, the high from March 3.

The preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan April consumer sentiment index came in at 82.6, beating expectations for a 81.0 reading.

Separately, official data showed that the U.S. producer price index rose 0.5% in March, exceeding expectations for a 0.1% gain, after a 0.1% fall the previous month.

Core producer price inflation, which is stripped of volatile food, energy and trade items, rose 0.6% in March, beating expectations for a 0.2% rise after a 0.2% decline in February.

The numbers drew applause in energy markets, reminding investors that the U.S. economy continues to improve and will likely demand more fuel and energy going forward and offset cooling emerging markets.

Crude oil prices took a hit on Thursday after official data showed that China’s crude oil imports fell to a five-month low in March, dropping to 5.55 million barrels a day, while oil-product imports fell to 540,000 barrels a day.

China’s overall exports unexpectedly fell for the second month in March, while imports dropped sharply, adding to concerns over a slowdown in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.

This week's supply report also bolstered prices.

In the U.S., the Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report on Wednesday that crude oil inventories rose by 4.03 million barrels in the week ended April 4, surpassing expectations for a build of 1.3 million barrels.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 384.1 million barrels as of last week.

The report came one day after the American Petroleum Institute said U.S. oil inventories rose by 7.1 million barrels last week, well above expectations for an increase of 2.5 million barrels.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for May delivery were up 0.27%, trading at US$107.76 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at US$3.66 a barrel.